Certain international investors and business owners are allowed to travel to the U.S. and work to develop and manage their businesses with E-2 visas. Certain essential employees, supervisors, and executive employees may likewise live and work in the U.S. at the companies with E-2 visas. When the companies are large, executive employees may be sent to the U.S. in place of the business owners. If you secure an E-2 visa, it can be renewed indefinitely as long as your business continues its U.S. operations. As an E-2 treaty investor, your employees who are nationals of your home country might also qualify for E-2 visas. The E-2 visa offers a path for living and working in the U.S. as long as you are willing and able to make a substantial investment in a business that will create jobs. Here is everything that you should know about E-2 visas.
What is an E-2 Visa?
An E-2 visa is also known as an E-2 treaty investor visa. It is a type of nonimmigrant visa which gives you the right to work and live in the U.S. when you invest a substantial amount of money in a U.S. business. Certain of your employees might also be able to secure E-2 visas to travel with you to the U.S. to help manage the business. If your company qualifies, key executives and supervisors might be able to travel to the U.S. to help with your business operations in your place.
Once you secure an E-2 visa, it will be valid for two years. It is renewable for two-year periods for as long as you meet the obligations and requirements as outlined by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. This visa is reserved for investors and entrepreneurs who are from countries with which the U.S. has a treaty of trade and commerce.
E-2 visa vs. H-1B visa
E-2 visas are investor and entrepreneur visas that are designed for people who can make substantial investments in U.S. businesses. By contrast, H-1B visas are visas that are available for skilled international workers who are sponsored by U.S. employers. E-2 visas require capital investments by the visa holders while H-1B visas do not. While there is an annual cap of 65,000 on the number of H-1B visas that are issued each year, E-2 visas do not have an annual cap.
To qualify for status as an E-2 treaty investor, you must make a substantial investment in a U.S. business. The USCIS does not set a minimum amount for what qualifies as a substantial investment. However, there are some guidelines for what will be considered a substantial investment that will be discussed in more detail later in this article. If you secure an E-2 visa, you and your dependents will be allowed to travel to the U.S. to live and work.
Eligibility for an E-2 visa
To be eligible for an E-2 visa, you must meet two prerequisites. First, you must be from an eligible country that has a trade treaty with the U.S. Second, you must make a substantial investment in a U.S. business. There are a few additional requirements that you will also need to meet. We will discuss each of these in turn.
Eligible countries that have trade treaties with the U.S.
The U.S. has trade and commerce treaties with many countries around the world. The treaties are meant to facilitate trade between the U.S. and its trading partners. E-2 visas are issued to help increase trade between the different treaty countries and the U.S. If you are a citizen of one of the treaty countries and can make a substantial investment in a U.S. business, you qualify to apply for an E-2 visa. You can check the list of treaty countries on the website of the U.S. Department of State.
You will also need to prove that you have invested substantial capital in a U.S. business and that you will enter the U.S. to direct and develop the business in which you are invested. We will discuss these requirements below.
What qualifies as a substantial investment?
According to the USCIS, an investment in a U.S. business includes funds or assets that are placed at risk in an enterprise. Placing assets at risk means that your investment could be lost if the company fails. You must also be able to prove that your investment funds did not come from any criminal activities.
The USCIS also provides some guidance about what might qualify as a substantial investment. A substantial investment is one that makes up a significant percentage of the aggregate cost of starting or purchasing the business. It must also be large enough to demonstrate your commitment to the business's success. Your investment must make it likelier that you will succeed with your business venture. If your business is a startup company, your investment must be sufficient to fund the business's operations from the start.
While it is possible to secure an E-2 visa for a business investment of less than $100,000, most investments of less than that amount will not be considered substantial. You should plan to invest at least $100,000 and work to meet all of the other criteria to increase your chances of qualifying for an E-2 visa.
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Bona fide U.S. business
You will also need to prove that you are investing in a bona fide U.S. business. This means that it must be a real company that offers services or goods to earn profits. Your business must not be marginal and must make more than what you need to support yourself and your family. For a new business venture, you will need to show that it will have a strong likelihood of generating profits that are not marginal in the future.
To prove that you are making or have made a substantial investment in a bona fide U.S. business, you will need to present evidence. Some examples of the types of evidence that you should submit include the following:
Organizational chart for your business
Notice of your Employer Identification Number from the IRS
Depending on your business and your situation, you might need to submit additional documents to prove your eligibility. You might want to work with an immigration attorney to ensure that you submit an application and supporting documents to improve your chances of being approved for an E-2 visa.
Purpose of entry is to direct and develop your business
You will be required to prove that your sole reason for entering the U.S. and working is to ensure that your business investment will be successful. You can prove this by demonstrating that your ownership interest is at least 50%. If you are applying for an E-2 visa to direct the operations of another person's business from your home country, you will need to show that you are an executive or hold a supervisory position.
Applying for an E-2 visa
To apply for an E-2 visa, you will need to complete Form DS-160. This is the application form that must be submitted for nonimmigrant visas. You will complete the application and submit it online. Once you submit it, you will receive a confirmation page with a barcode. Print out the confirmation page and barcode since you will need to bring them to your visa interview. At the time that you apply, you will need to upload a photo. Your photograph will need to comply with the requirements for U.S. passport photos. You will also need to pay the visa application fee for E-2 visas, which is $205. After your visa is approved, you might also be required to pay a visa issuance fee. However, people from certain countries may not be required to pay the visa issuance fee. You can search your home country on the U.S. Department of State's website to see if you are required to pay the visa issuance fee.
Schedule your visa interview
After you have submitted your visa application and have received your confirmation page and bar code, you will need to contact the U.S. consulate or embassy in your home country to schedule a visa interview. While it is possible to schedule an interview at a U.S. consulate or embassy in a different country from your own, you will be more likely to be approved when you apply at the consulate or embassy in your home country. The U.S. Department of State publishes an official list of U.S. consulates and embassies around the world. You can find the consulate or embassy in your home country by checking the list.
When you contact the embassy or consulate in your home country to schedule an interview, there may be a waiting period before an interview will be available. The length of time for your interview to be scheduled will depend on the embassy or consulate and its schedule. It may take a few months to get your interview, so you should apply for your visa early. You will be notified about when your visa interview is scheduled. Before your interview date arrives, make sure to gather the following documents that you will need to bring with you:
Your DS-160 confirmation page and barcode
Receipts showing the payment of the visa application fee
Valid passport that will remain valid for at least six months after your intended stay in the U.S.
Two U.S.-style passport photos
Proof of your income and ability to support yourself while you are in the U.S.
Proof of your intent to return to your home country
You will also need to bring the documents that were mentioned earlier to prove that your business is a bona fide U.S. company and that the investment you have made is substantial. Since the E-2 visa is a nonimmigrant visa, you will need to prove that you intend to return to your home country. Some examples of the types of evidence that you can bring to prove your intent to return include property deeds, evidence of your family ties in your home country, membership in organizations, and evidence of your community ties.
Make sure to arrive early for your visa interview. It might be a good idea to find the consulate or embassy a day or two in advance of your interview so that you can make certain that you will have time to find a place to park and know where you are going. Make certain to bring all of your documents and evidence with you to the interview. During the interview, you will need to demonstrate to the embassy or consular official that you are eligible for an E-2 visa.
You will also have to submit to a biometric screening. This will include submitting your fingerprints and other information to check if you have a criminal record. The biometric services fee is $85.
If you are approved for an E-2 visa, the official will take your passport so that the E-2 visa can be stamped in it. Pay the visa issuance fee if it applies to you. Your passport with the E-2 visa may be delivered to your home address, depending on the embassy or consulate in your home country. Some U.S. embassies and consulates require people to return to pick up their passports with the visa stamps.
What is the processing time for E-2 visas?
Once you have completed your visa interview, you will have to wait for your visa to be processed. In most cases, the processing time should take between two to four weeks. However, this might vary because of the workloads of different embassies and consulates.
If you need the processing of your E-2 visa to be faster, you can pay for it to be expedited by filing Form I-907 and paying the fee for premium processing. The fee for premium processing is $1,440 and is in addition to all of the other fees that you have paid. Expedited processing ensures that your E-2 visa will be processed within 15 days.
E-2 visa dependents
Your family members, including your spouse and minor, unmarried children who are younger than 21, can apply for derivative E-2 visas based on your E-2 visa. They will also need to be citizens of your home country that has a treaty with the U.S. Each derivative E-2 visa will require a separate application. Your family members will need to bring documents proving their family relationship to you to qualify for derivative visas. This includes marriage certificates, birth certificates, and other similar types of evidence. If your documents are not in English, they will need to be translated. Your dependents' E-2 visas will have the same validity period as your E-2 visa.
E-2 visa holder's employees
If you are an E-2 visa holder, certain employees might be eligible for E-2 visas. They must be essential to your business and hold managerial or executive positions to qualify. They will need to go through the same E-2 visa application process and present evidence showing their roles and the importance that they have to the success of your enterprise.
Adjustment of status
If you are already in the U.S. under a different nonimmigrant visa status, you can apply to adjust your status to an E-2 visa. You will need to meet all of the eligibility requirements that were previously listed. For example, if you entered the U.S. as an F-1 visa student and decide to make a substantial investment to start a company in the U.S., you can apply for an adjustment of status to an E-2 visa.
If you are in the U.S. on an E-2 visa and want to adjust your status to become a lawful permanent resident, you can also apply for an adjustment of status. For example, if you are an immigrant investor who has invested $1 million in a U.S. business that creates at least 10 U.S. jobs, you can apply for an adjustment of status to become a lawful permanent resident. If your business is located in a target employment area, you might be eligible to apply for lawful permanent resident status with an investment of $500,000.
E-2 visa renewals
While an E-2 visa can be renewed indefinitely, you must continue to meet the requirements. These visas must be renewed every two years. You should renew your E-2 visa before your I-94 expires. If you apply before it does, you will be able to continue working in the U.S. for 240 days while you wait for the renewal decision. If you submit your renewal application after your I-94 expires, you will only be allowed to continue working in the U.S. for 40 days while you wait.
Preparing for life in the U.S.
Making a substantial investment in a U.S. business is a major decision. If you have invested substantial capital in a new enterprise in the U.S. and have been approved for an E-2 visa, preparing for your move to the U.S. will involve many steps. One thing that you should not overlook is transferring your credit history. It will not automatically transfer to the U.S. when you move, and most lenders, landlords, and banks rely on the credit records of their applicants to decide whether to approve their credit or lease applications. Nova Credit offers the global credit passport, which translates your credit history into a usable credit score. Most major creditors and banks in the U.S. accept the Nova Credit score, which can make starting your new life in the U.S. a little easier. Once you have your Nova Credit score and have finished your other preparations, you can begin the exciting journey to build a successful business in the U.S.
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